History / Bible / Literature Instructor's Guides
Each History / Bible / Lit IG includes two primary components. First, a complete schedule for everything your children will study – each day's assignments. Second, a carefully edited set of teaching tools that expand upon and direct your study.
After I've outlined a basic schedule for a full 36-week school year, the product development team transforms my notes into an easy-to-use grid. They lay out the 180-day schedule on 36 pages – five days per page, or the equivalent of 36 five-day weeks.
No need to write your own lesson plans or coordinate the reading. Everything is already scheduled for you. Each day you open your IG, do the given assignments, and – if you want a formal record of what you've done – check each box or record the date as you complete it. (If your state requires a record of how many hours you dedicated to a subject, you also have space to record the time you spent.)
Some customers follow the schedules in the Sonlight Instructor's Guides rigidly. Others read ahead, or sometimes drop a book. I suspect that, overall, most people follow the schedules fairly closely, even if they have to play catch-up in some areas.
With the schedule formatted and checked, we create a whole range of …
By the time we're ready to begin creating the Sonlight Instructor's Guides, I've often read every book two or three times to be sure it really is the best for the curriculum. Once I've finalized the schedule, I read each book slowly one more time, looking for details I want to highlight.
Most books include at least a few words outside readers' normal vocabulary. I highlight these words, and my team then creates a list that includes the word displayed in context, along with a definition.
Some customers use these lists after each day's reading to reinforce the vocabulary. Some read over the lists in advance, to be prepared for the unusual words when they read them. They can then define the words on-the-fly: "Dan looked at Joan quizzically – which means questioningly." Finally, some customers don't pay much attention to the vocabulary words until they're really stumped. When that happens, as one mom said, "Ninety-eight percent of the time, the word will be right there in the IG!"
These vocabulary words serve as a mini-dictionary for each book.
Authors, especially authors of historical fiction, refer to things and people whose names may have been common knowledge at the time of the book's setting, but mean little to modern readers (hoop skirts, for example). My team does the background research necessary to provide brief, useful descriptions. These cultural literacy terms serve as a mini-encyclopedia for each book.
For all the History books, I try to identify the most important points, and ask questions about them, including the answers for easy reference. You can use these questions for review, to reinforce the reading (and to reassure you how much your children are learning).
The Read-Alouds also have some comprehension questions, i.e., "What does Wilbur want? (a friend)."
For the first few years, your children will most likely read their books aloud to you, so you'll know whether they understand what they're reading. But once they start reading independently (perhaps in third grade or so), you may want to make sure they're understanding their Readers. And so I suggest questions you might like to ask – and offer brief answers, so you can confirm that they're understanding the book without having to read alongside, if you're short of time.
Besides comprehension and summary questions, I also ask open-ended thought questions. "Have you ever felt like that?" Or, "What do you think would be a better response?"
Of course, you're free to use these questions as you choose. Some customers ignore them; they feel confident in their ability to ask questions. Some use them every day. Some skim them and then ask only the ones they like. There isn't a right or wrong way. The questions are a resource that's available if you'd like to use them.
Sometimes a book has a particular bias, and we want to give the other side. Or maybe a passage is less clear than it could be. I do the research necessary to provide you with further explanations, commentary, or counter-balancing arguments. I also do my best to give you warnings about specific books or difficult content, so you know what to expect and how to approach it.
Sometimes a book prompts some research, and I get to share the results. In the Sonlight 100 program, the book They Loved to Laugh ends with: "Someday, Jonathan, thee will be governor of North Carolina." That's such a strange prediction – why not predict he'll be president? – it seemed likely that this was based on fact. And, indeed, the character, Jonathan Worth, did become governor of North Carolina. I like notes like that!
To put the people and events you're learning about into chronological context, I point out when you have a timeline figure available that you can place in your Timeline Book. When you don't have a figure, I provide the appropriate dates so you can write them into the Timeline Book.
To put learning in geographical context, the IGs include colorful maps, which double as bookmarks, and include the coordinates and location names in the IG.
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